Matrix Podcast: Interview with Desiree Fields

desiree fields

In this episode, Michael Watts talks with Desiree Fields, Assistant Professor of Geography and Global Metropolitan Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Fields’ research explores the financial technologies, market devices, and historical and geographic contingencies that make it possible to treat housing as a financial asset, and how this process is contested at the urban scale. At the heart of her work is an interest in how economic and transformations unevenly restructure urban space and social relations, with a particular concern for how urban struggles for justice coalesce around these changes. Within this broadly defined area, she examines two transformations as they relate to housing, a crucial vector of urban inequality and terrain of grassroots political contestation. First, the shift to a finance-oriented political economy; second, the growing global reach and power of digital platforms.

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Podcast Transcript



Woman’s Voice: The Matrix Podcast is a production of Social Science Matrix, an interdisciplinary research center at the University of California Berkeley. Your host is Professor Michael Watts.

Michael Watts: Hello. This is Matrix Podcast. Our interview today is with Professor Desiree Fields, assistant professor of geography on the Berkeley campus and also a core faculty member in the global metropolitan studies program.

Desiree is a relatively recent arrival here. She happens to be a Bay Area native. So she’s coming home in that regard. But prior to arriving here, she taught for a number of years at the University of Sheffield in the UK.

Her focus in research terms is primarily on the housing sector and particularly changes in the housing sector that have occurred since the financial crisis of 2008. And she’s especially concerned, and that’s what she’ll be talking about today, with the sorts of changes, technological changes related to, among other things, social media, cloud computing, mobile computing, tech boom 2.0 as it sometimes popularly referred to, how that has been transforming the structure and character of the housing market and actors in the housing market. So Desiree, welcome and thank you so much for coming along and talking to us today.

Desiree Fields: Hi, Michael. Thanks for inviting me.

Michael Watts: Good. So let me begin with a sort of general question. Your training and your formation and most of your professional experience has been as a geographer. So let me start with this question. How do you as a geographer think about housing and why for you it’s so central to understanding, for example, contemporary American capitalism?

Desiree Fields: Sure. Yeah. So housing is a really interesting thing to look at as a geographer because it’s both fundamental to the urban landscape and how we make and remake cities, but particularly in places like America and other highly advanced economies, it’s also really central to economic growth and reproduction.

And so that’s really how I think about housing both as something that is actually increasingly important in our economy and increasingly sort of structured by financial interests and the way that those financial interests are affecting urban housing markets.

So I think about how do financial actors seek to use housing as a means of making profits from cities and from housing markets and how are those efforts by financial actors to extract wealth from housing fundamentally changing our cities.

Michael Watts: So is it fair to say that in a way there’s been– there’s been a lot of talk, of course, about the dominance of finance or finance capital in contemporary America or the transatlantic economies. Do you see much of your work then in housing as a type of example of this financialization at work? And these actors that we’ll talk about in just a second, investment banks or whatever they may be. Is this for you not exclusively but a type of financialization story?

Desiree Fields: Yeah, certainly. I mean, my work is about financialization, but I think one thing that distinguishes my work perhaps from– look, I mean, there’s a lot of work on financialization and housing financialization now in geography, urban studies, and lots of other fields.

My particular focus on financialization of housing has always really sought to look not only at that process of treating housing as a financial asset or attempting to treat housing as a financial asset but to also look at how does that change the lived experience of housing and home, how does that create inequalities that then become the site of urban struggles.

So yes, I’m interested in the economic parts of this process but just as much on the politics and power relations and lived experience of this process.

Michael Watts: Let me ask you, why did you gravitate toward housing as a graduate student really? I guess your PhD was awarded after the 2008 financial crisis. Was it triggered by that and changes that you saw when you were in New York, let’s say? Or were there other motives that drew you to housing as being something that was so central to understanding, for example, contemporary inequality?

Desiree Fields: Sure. I mean, so I came into graduate school and into environmental psychology with a background in psychology and social work. And I had been working in San Francisco as a counselor in residential settings and working with a primarily homeless population.

And my motivation for going to graduate school was my frustration with the system that I was working in and how I perceived it as almost necessitating that the people I was working with be in crisis in order to be housed.

And so I started to see that the system was reproducing a cycle of crisis in people’s lives that, of course, was not helpful for their mental health. So I wanted to pursue a PhD in environmental psychology to better understand that process and to intervene in it.

And then of course, in the middle of my graduate training, 2008 happened, and I was working closely with my PhD supervisor on a research project about experiences of foreclosure in families in different cities across the country.

And so I think that’s where the kernel of my interest in financialization of housing really lies. And then I just think– I think getting your PhD at such a pivotal time in our history, it just–

Michael Watts: Right. Exactly

Desiree Fields: Yeah. It was inescapable to focus on housing.

Michael Watts: Well, let me just take up on this issue of your Bay Area origins and working in the Bay Area. I mean, obviously, there’s probably no more central and contentious an issue right now in the greater Bay Area than housing costs, than the homeless question, than gentrification and so on.

And sometimes those things are seen to be in a way if not peculiar to San Francisco, they’re in part, of course, driven by a lot of wealth in Silicon Valley and so on. But is your view that these sorts of issues are peculiar to the likes of San Francisco, or New York, or Los Angeles? Or do we see these showing up in very different types of urban contexts in the Midwest, in Florida, or other parts in the transatlantic economies?

Desiree Fields: I mean, certainly there are particular variations that we associate with San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and these kind of major cities. But in the North Atlantic, we live in late capitalism. And in that system, housing is a crucial part of the economy.

And in that sense, housing financialization, homelessness, gentrification, rising rents, these are problems that we see across the United States in rural contexts, in small cities, in major cities. We see the presence of institutional investors in suburban housing markets, urban housing markets, and in between.

So it’s a variegated problem as geographers would say. So this is a problem that has geographical variation, sociospatial difference, but nonetheless, it’s a pretty generalized process I would say.

Michael Watts: Good. Let me start by moving into your research by focusing specifically on the financial crisis of 2008. Why, in your view, is this such a foundational moment in understanding the changes that you’ve documented, which we’ll get to in just a second, within the broader real estates sector?

Desiree Fields: Sure. So leading up to 2008, of course, there were decades of financial innovation as we might call it. So a proliferation of different kinds of lending products that really transformed the notion of the 30 year fixed rate amortizing mortgage.

We began to see different mortgage rates, different mortgage products, interest only mortgages, et cetera, et cetera. So we saw this kind of real–

Michael Watts: Proliferation of instruments as it were.

Desiree Fields: Of different instruments and different ways of then treating those debts as the raw material of financial products. So mortgage backed securities and all of those other– all those other things.

So the dissolution of all of that in the 2008 crisis, all of that was a turning point in itself. All of those decades of innovation, I think, really changed how people think about housing, so just at a personal level, this idea of being able to take out a loan against your house in order to go on a vacation or pay for your kid’s education or whatever.

So the mortgage as a means of supporting personal consumption, that was a difference. The idea of the mortgage as the ingredient in a financial asset that was a difference. And then so when all of that fell apart in 2008, it became as crisis often is in capitalism an opportunity for different kinds of actors to capitalize on all of this dispossession and loss.

Michael Watts: And these were as it were traditional financial actors, meaning investment banks? Who were the cast of characters who when that massive foreclosure happened in Stockton here in California or in Florida? What were the actors that were piling in to this sector that was literally, as you said, being ravaged?

Desiree Fields: Sure. So what we began to see in the aftermath of 2008 was really the increased involvement in the housing market of actors like private equity funds, who were well known in terms of taking over large businesses like retail businesses and all kinds of other business settings.

So private equity players are known for taking over what they would call distressed assets or distressed businesses and attempting to turn them around. So we began to see the entrance of these private equity players coming into the housing market. So these very large scale investors with a lot of capital.

And this was pretty new. I mean, there’s a history in apartment buildings, particularly in New York and some other major cities, there’s a history of this kind of institutional investing in multifamily housing, not so much by private equity firms but–

Michael Watts: But these were acquisitions of single family rentals that were, quote, “distressed assets”, end quote. So this was in a sense a consolidation and a massive acquisition of these sorts of properties. Is that correct?

Desiree Fields: Right. Yeah. I mean, essentially, the foreclosure crisis created an opportunity ostensibly for all kinds of investors to buy up housing that had been devalued. But what we saw was that the ones who really had access to large pools of capital were private equity investors largely, who were able to come in and buy properties from banks often one by one, so on the courthouse steps as it were every month when foreclosed properties were being auctioned off.

And really, assemble portfolios consisting of thousands and tens of thousands of single family homes that they then rented out. So there was this shift happening from home ownership to just real huge increase in rental demand as people, both homeowners and tenants, lost homes in the foreclosure crisis.

Michael Watts: And these properties that were so acquired, were they distributed nationally or would a private equity firm, for example, be specializing in southern Florida and southern California, were they national in that sense in these large scale holdings that they possessed?

Desiree Fields: So the geography has shifted a bit over time but there’s definitely a distinctive sunbelt geography to this phenomenon. And so we see parts of California, largely southern California a bit, northern California markets like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tampa, heavy presence in Atlanta.

So there’s this real west, southwest, and southeast metro areas that really saw private equity kind of descend on these places. And it kind of started in the west and then moved east.

Michael Watts: But it’s not exclusively private equity firms that are the sole actors in this consolidation of single family rentals. Or are they the major player would you say?

Desiree Fields: There’s been a bit of a shift. So particularly in a place like Oakland, you saw a lot of smaller localish private equity firms but there’s been over– that was kind of in the immediate right after, during, and right after the crisis. And then you saw larger firms like Blackstone or Colony Capital coming in.

And so what we’ve seen over the past almost a decade now is this kind of the entrance of smaller players, some private equity backed, some just kind of savvy local investors. And you’ve seen this kind of consolidation happening.

So the smaller players come, the larger players then descend. You see sometimes they buy up the inventory of the smaller actors. You then see some of the larger actors themselves start to consolidate and merge with one another.

And then you have these private equity players like Blackstone, their single family rental company is called Invitation Homes. Invitation Homes is now a real estate investment trust. So there’s also a shift in the corporate structure of these companies.

Michael Watts: Now, is this a peculiarly American phenomenon? Or do we see this in Canada? Do we see this in the UK or versions of it?

Desiree Fields: We see it all over the place. I mean, particularly if you look at other countries that were really hit hard by the crisis in terms of the impact of the 2008 crisis on their housing markets. Ireland, Spain, these places you have seen the entrance of many of the same players, particularly Blackstone, acquiring distressed housing, sometimes distressed public housing, and renting it out.

You’ve also seen in those countries the rollout of legislation by the state that really supports this strategy by allowing real estate investment trusts. You also have seen a heavy financialisation of rental housing in Canada, which was not hit as hard by the crisis but nonetheless is subject to this trend.

Less so in the UK because their rental market is still very, very fragmented.

Michael Watts: Quite. Quite. Quite. Quite. Now, let’s take Blackstone. So you have now thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of properties, across a national space. How are they managed? This seems to be a central part of your story and the role of technologies of various sorts in facilitating that. So walk us through that story.

Desiree Fields: Sure. I mean, so this is so interesting to me because I grew up in a single family home in Concord. And a lot of us grew up in single family homes. So what is tricky to think about doing is managing a portfolio of 100,000 of these properties, which unlike apartment buildings, are all sitting in different places.

So all of Blackstone’s properties are not on the same block or even in the same neighborhood in any one city that they’re operating in. So you have a scattered set of assets that were built at different times, non standardly constructed, and that is a real challenge in terms of operations and management.

And so I think while the foreclosure crisis and the price dislocation that that created presented an opportunity for these actors, it was not sufficient for them. I think what we really see is the intersection of that price dislocation with this crazy boom in technology that we’ve seen essentially happening over the same time scale.

And that is what has enabled investors like Blackstone to manage such a huge portfolio of properties.

Michael Watts: Let’s start there because you in your work, you flag a number of innovations or a number of forces that you think are central for anyone to understand and what you’ve just described. And maybe before we get into the technologies, let me just ask you about those things that you think are so important.

One is you refer to logistics. So why is logistics– perhaps just walk us through what you mean by that term. And why an understanding of something called logistics is an integral part of the story that you’ve just outlined?

Desiree Fields: Sure. So we often think of logistics in terms of ways of trying to move things efficiently from one place to another. So if we think about cargo ships and the ways in which products that are produced in China are moved on shipping containers on ships and shipping containers and then how all of those goods get to different points throughout the United States.

So logistics is this kind of scientific or technical approach to the movement of stuff.

Michael Watts: So this could be a type of classical global supply chain when we talk about the iPhone and its various components being outsourced and moved around, something of that sort.

Desiree Fields: Right. And so I try to take this idea of logistics and use it to think about how do we move capital basically and how do we organize rental homes in such a way that rent checks can be moved from tenants’ bank accounts into global financial markets via financial products.

And so I’m thinking about this notion of the supply chain in terms of the supply chain of financial products. So rent checks as the thing that needs to be kind of moved and distributed through an extended supply chain of different kinds of actors.

Michael Watts: Got it. Got it. Now, a second force that you identify or a set of innovations you refer to here some work of our colleague actually, Neil Fligstein on campus here at Berkeley, the vertical integration of the firm. Now why is that an important part of your story too to understand the real estate innovations?

Desiree Fields: Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting if you look at a lot of work about the economy over the past 50 or 60 years, there’s a lot of talk about vertical disintegration and the shift from these huge producers and large factories controlling everything within the factory to the creation of these kinds of flexible lien, et cetera.

Michael Watts: Decentralized networks of production.

Desiree Fields: Forms of production. But I drew on Neil’s work because he was looking at the production of subprime loans and found that the production of subprime loans in the lead up to the crisis was engineered– some of the most important actors in that space were heavily vertically integrated.

And so these firms were responsible for everything from knocking on doors and originating loans in neighborhoods all the way up to securitization and selling those products on financial markets. And what I observed with actors like Blackstone is exactly the same kinds of behavior.

So keeping all of those activities internal to the company all the way from acquisition of homes to the rehabilitation of those homes, the operation and management of those properties, and the securitization of the rent into a financial asset.

Michael Watts: Absolutely. Since you’re talking about the firms themselves, let me ask you a related question, namely, how does one study these things? I mean, typically studying large corporations is a difficult issue.

They don’t disclose very much. Their records may not even be in the public domain. What was your approach to trying to understand that vertical integration that you just described from the knocking on the door up to the instruments that were securitized?

Desiree Fields: Sure. So I do a lot of what we call it in the UK desk research, which consists largely of following a lot of media and journalistic accounts of this process. I think one of the things that was really interesting about this phenomenon, this kind of creation of the rent backed security is that it is and was a totally new financial asset class.

And because of that, there was a lot of interest in the process from investors, by credit rating agencies, by people in capital markets. There was a lot of speculation about whether this business model could exist, whether investors like Blackstone were trying to quickly buy and flip properties or whether they were in it for the long haul.

And because of that, there was a lot of material to work with. So I did a lot of this kind of desk research. I do conference ethnography, where I go to investment forums and do participant observation at conferences and use that as a way of networking with actors in this space and interviewing them.

Michael Watts: So we’ve got the logistics. We’ve got the vertical integration. Let’s turn to the technologies themselves. Why don’t you just walk us through then when you’ve got this organizational supply chain challenge in a sense of multiple properties dispersed over space, different housing stock qualities, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, how does technology, what you call platform capitalism– I’ll come back to that term, I’d like you to explain that. But what are the sorts of technologies that are in play at this point?

Desiree Fields: Sure. So we can think about it starting from the point of acquisition. So if you’re trying to scale up a portfolio that you need to have 1,000 properties in a given city, for example, or a metro area, how do you acquire those properties before all the other investors who are interested in the same set of properties get in there and prices go up?

And so what we began to see was the development of acquisition algorithms or acquisition engines that basically take all kinds of public and proprietary and private data about housing stock and neighborhoods, employment growth, and transportation, the age of the housing stock, the quality of the neighborhood, proximity to schools, all of these kinds of data points, throw them into an algorithm and use that to identify geographies that have concentrations of properties that meet those criteria.

Michael Watts: I see.

Desiree Fields: So we saw companies using these kinds of algorithms to essentially delineate geographical areas where they could acquire properties and to designate what a maximum bid for a particular property in that space might be.

And so they were able to, even though they were largely buying properties one by one and not in bulk, they were able to use that to very efficiently scan what was available and then drill down into, OK, what are the properties that meet our investment criteria and how much are we going to pay.

And so that kind of is like an industrial strategy–

Michael Watts: Acquisition strategy almost.

Desiree Fields: Right. So then once you have– once you’ve acquired the properties, it’s a question of, OK, well, how do we manage all of this stuff? Certainly, the landlord is not going to be going around to properties one by one and engaging with tenants.

So we see things, all of these companies have tenant portals where you can pay your rent via this portal rather than writing out a rent check and sending it into the management office, where you can submit a maintenance request if something is wrong with your home.

And as I learned in attending these conferences and investment forums, the Holy Grail of this is it sounds so simple now but it’s just having tenants upload a picture of whatever is happening. So that they can kind of diagnose the problem rather than having a workman or a contractor come out twice, once to diagnose and again to fix the problem.

So you have that kind of management at a distance enabled by portals for payment and maintenance. And then there’s this question of turnover. So we see actors deciding, OK, well, I need to add 20 properties in this metro area, or actually, we’re not going to be active in Las Vegas anymore, so we want to drop all of these properties in this market.

And when you have tenants in properties and you need to add or cull your portfolio, then it becomes a real problem of, well, so are you going to get the tenants out, put the property on the market vacant? Wait for someone else to buy it, then the person who buys it or the company who buys it has to get in there, do rehab, and get a lease signed.

So meanwhile, you’re just leaving rent on the table. And so what we have seen is the emergence of platforms that are designed to basically enable the buying and selling of single family rental properties without getting the tenants out. So you have a platform like Roofstock, which is designed specifically for this purpose.

Michael Watts: So let me ask then about the renters themselves and the ways in which these types of technologies and particularly of big data of various sorts– you yourself talk about an interesting legal case from last year in which Facebook was implicated in exactly providing this sort of private data about actual or potential renters. Where does that enter into the tech story that you’ve just walked us through?

Desiree Fields: Sure. So I mean, what is especially important to consider and just understand when you’re looking at the ways in which technology is reconfiguring housing markets is that, of course, our housing markets are already fundamentally unequal and heavily segregated by processes of discrimination, both individual and structural.

And so any kind of technology that’s operating in the housing market is, I would say, likely to perpetuate these same processes. And so this case that HUD brought against Facebook is really interesting because they allege that Facebook violated the Fair Housing Act via the ways in which housing ads and mortgage ads on Facebook Marketplace were made available to different Facebook users.

And so they contend that this happened in two ways. The first way we might think of is like uploading existing biases into the system. So Facebook Marketplace, the platform that advertisers were interacting with to put these ads on Facebook Marketplace essentially allowed people taking out ads to pick and choose which kinds of Facebook users they wanted to see the ad.

And there was even a tool where they could draw a red line around areas that they did or did not want people located in those areas to see the ads, which just the idea of a tool that allows them to draw red lines around specific areas obviously harks back to–

Michael Watts: Redlining and in real estate more generally.

Desiree Fields: Exactly. And the reason that Facebook was able to make different categories of users available for advertisers to pick and choose who will and won’t see the ads is because of our activities on Facebook essentially creating all of this data that Facebook can use to classify us.

So based on my activities on Facebook, they probably know, for example, that I’m an academic, that I’m interested in housing, that I’m a parent, that I live in the Bay Area. And so all of those things might kind of get condensed to put me into some kind of box that says, OK, here’s a middle class white woman living in the Bay Area who’s interested in stuff for her kid.

And so Facebook uses that data to present categories to advertisers.

Michael Watts: So this is also classifying people and families in a sense. You refer to this. Again, one of our colleagues, Professor Marion Fourcade has talked a great deal about this. You cite her use of this notion of an information dragnet, which is in the business of exactly that type of classification.

Desiree Fields: Exactly. And so Facebook Marketplace more or less allowed advertisers to upload their existing biases by picking and choosing who will and will not see these ads. But the lawsuit that HUD brought goes further to say that the platform itself generated its own kind of discrimination that was a violation of the Fair Housing Act because regardless of whether advertisers wanted to, say, cast a wide net and have lots of different kinds of groups see the ads, the platform would choose which categories of people did and not see the ads on the basis of who they deemed most likely to interact with that ad.

So who’s most likely to click on the ad? And so this is a really interesting case where it’s like, OK, yes, platforms allow us to transmit our biases online. But platforms themselves by virtue of those kinds of dynamics of classification and the analysis of data that says, predicting who will and will not interact with certain kinds of content, that platforms themselves generate their own kind of discriminatory behavior.

Michael Watts: That’s fascinating. I mean, this points to, I guess, a larger question about the degree to which these technological innovations within this sector are now demanding new sorts of regulatory interventions of various sorts or to what degree are these innovations pushing into frontier areas that effectively are not regulated.

Or we could anticipate exactly these types of HUD Facebook issues becoming central to transparency and disclosure within this sector.

Desiree Fields: I mean, even as HUD is bringing this suit against Facebook around violations of the Fair Housing Act, HUD is also increasingly reluctant to pursue other modes of algorithmic discrimination in housing.

And so it’s not really clear how HUD as a regulatory agency charged with upholding and strengthening fair housing, it’s not really clear whether and how HUD is an actor is going to intervene effectively in this space.

But we see other kinds of pushes for regulation around these kinds of technological interventions happening. So one case that a lot of people might have heard about is the use of facial recognition systems to access housing.

So there’s a pretty well known case now in New York of a property management company that wanted to use a facial recognition system for tenants to– this would be the primary way that tenants would be able to get into and out of the apartment complex.

They had properties in Central Brooklyn and in the Bronx, a primarily Black resident population. And the tenants said, we do not consent to this kind of surveillance. We already feel heavily surveilled by virtue of the cameras and the electronic key fobs that you’re requiring us to use.

And we feel that this is a kind of punitive carceral intervention that is really designed to criminalize us as tenants. And you see companies advertising this kind of biometric access system as a way for property owners to more or less catch up tenants who might be violating the terms of their lease.

And so this is especially poignant in the context of gentrification and the ways in which landlords might be able to use this kind of technology to evict tenants and raise rents. So those tenants in New York fought back. The city is now really pushing to restrict the use of facial recognition systems at all.

And you see this wave of legislation by cities around the country outlawing the use of facial recognition on the basis that it is not only inaccurate but discriminatory and just difficult to govern.

Michael Watts: I mean, obviously, these types of push backs in and around what is effectively forms of surveillance is one area that’s going to be clearly an important policy arena going forward. I’m wondering whether these types of platforms that you’re describing, precisely because you’ve written a lot and have been involved in various types of social justice work around evictions, around rental properties, et cetera, et cetera, are these platforms also being used by advocacy organizations?

Or are there in a sense technological counterweights to exactly this type of process that you’ve been describing, which is in a way is if I understand you correctly is sort of facilitating the deeper structural forms of segregation, exclusion, eviction that have always inhabited the housing sector?

Desiree Fields: Yeah. I mean, I think what we know about technology is that it’s a tool. And the technology exists in a social context and a political context. And all of the kinds of interventions that we’ve just been discussing are really uses of technology within a market context, within a capitalist context, and being used more or less to further capital accumulation.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be used that way. And so we see, of course, really sophisticated and exciting uses of technology by activists and advocates that are trying to push back on that process in various ways.

So of course, there’s the Anti Eviction Mapping project, which is well known for its work mapping evictors, evictions, and also developing counter narratives to push back on this process that we see really just turning the Bay Area inside out.

We see groups like justfix.nyc, which has developed this tool called Who Owns What that allows you to– it basically draws together just lots of different public data sources into a user friendly interface.

So you can put in an address and look at who owns the property, what are all the other buildings that they own. Because this process of financialization means that your landlord could own lots of different properties not just in your neighborhood but all over a city.

And that, in terms of activism, I think demands a different kind of organizing that might be more portfolio based than strictly neighborhood based. So this kind of tool justfix.nyc offers helps to facilitate that kind of portfolio based organizing.

I’ve been doing some field work in Berlin on this question. And we see some interesting more social enterprise focused strategies that basically use legal technology, machine learning, and so forth to basically scan rental contracts, check them against regulations, and find out if tenants are being overcharged, and help them kind of recoup those costs.

And then we see platforms like Doma, which basically is trying to use smart contracts and crowdfunding to facilitate investment in rental properties and then to pay some of the dividends back to tenants.

So it’s basically trying to redistribute equity that develops in property over time, rather than letting that all go to property owners.

Michael Watts: So in a sense, all of these are pointing to the need to innovate political and advocacy strategies that are congruent with the types of technological innovations that are transforming the sector itself.

It’s going to demand in that sense a different style of doing politics in some sense given the nature of the beast that’s now so dominant in the housing sector.

Desiree Fields: I think this is true. However, I think it is also true that we need to push for blanket policies that protect and support all renters because even though these technological processes are transforming housing markets and even though they might be affecting greater and greater parts of the housing market, they aren’t going to affect everyone.

And if we are targeting only those kinds of interventions, we might protect and support some people. When we know the housing market itself is operating in fundamentally unequal ways that benefit landlords and property owners and disadvantage renters, we need to be careful, I think, in terms of how we focus our organizing.

And so pushing for things like just cause eviction across the board, pushing for things like rent controls that are– good rent controls across the board is just as important.

Michael Watts: Thank you, Desiree, for a fascinating conversation. These issues are obviously central not only to Bay Area and politics that we’ve been involved with currently. But obviously, they have national and in fact, global implications. And we’ll be certainly circling back to many of these issues in our future podcasts. We’ll be posting this and other podcasts on our website. That’s matrix.berkeley.edu. And thank you very much for listening.

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